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Pixel Ripped 1995 (PlayStation 4) artwork

Pixel Ripped 1995 (PlayStation 4) review


"Games within games" is not a new concept to the medium, but Pixel Ripped 1989 did it in such an interesting, appealing way based on description alone. Essentially, with the aid of the PSVR helmet and an intentionally-silly plot, you are an actual game character who synches with a real world, school-aged girl in the late-1980s, playing a handheld device during class. Your means of advancing through this title is to actually look down at the handheld as the girl and complete the monochrome sprite-based, action-platform stages using the game character. The catch being to do so without someone like a teacher noticing. You're given quite the multitasking-workout, constantly looking up and down from the handheld, attempting to maintain a balance of important platform jumps while keeping real world authority figures at bay with distractions around the room.

Pixel Ripped 1995 has a set-up that seems all too familiar as the returning game character, Dot, now synches with a young boy from the mid-1990s. Some players who grew up through this era might have a ting of nostalgia with the first stage's scenario: you're in the living room, sitting in front of a CRT television, playing on your SNES-lookalike console. The game being played is obviously inspired by the 16-bit A Link to the Past, complete with a grassy village and a forest area where Dot must defeat animals with her hand cannon. Meanwhile in the real world, a neighboring kid is sticking his head through the window, bragging that he beat the game, as well as your mom complaining that the games you're playing might leave lasting effects. If you fail to distract her by shooting a toy gun at various objects, she'll turn off the system, placing you back to the last checkpoint in-game.

In another situation, you'll be playing a platformer in the vein of classic Castlevania late at night, past your bedtime. The goal here is to complete the in-game castle stage, filled with stairways, giant bats, and skeletons, without making loud noises; accidentally step on wooden floors or shoot a bell, and you better have a quick reaction to turning off the TV before your mom realizes what you're up to. There's also a stage where you and your father head over to a rental store reminiscent of Blockbuster, with aisles and aisles and aisles of cases on display. As your father scans the store and the neighboring kid conveniently pops up to be annoying, you fiddle with a kiosk featuring a Sonic the Hedgehog-style title with gems and loop-de-loops. Without giving much away, you practically have to "borrow" things from another kiosk game in order to make progress.

Pixel Ripped 1995 does a good job tickling with nostalgia feathers and does so with interesting-sounding gameplay gimmicks in a VR environment. Regrettably, the former does a much better job than the latter, and because of that, the former ultimately suffers.

Basically, this sequel feels like it does less with more. The game is a bit longer than its predecessor, six stages in all, but that really doesn't amount to much if the execution is lacking. Having to turn off the TV with a remote, for example, is a very straightforward act, and is hurt even more by the fact that in-game hazards are very easy to avoid. The distractions you can cause in the first stage's house, as well, don't have a sense of tension or importance to them, especially since you can outright tell when the mom is about to come at you. Again, what doesn't help is that enemies encountered in the Zelda-like overhead world can be disposed of from a distance with the hand cannon.

Unfortunately in terms of gameplay, 1995 gets progressively lazy, seeming to almost coast on nostalgia alone. The Streets of Rage stage, for instance, is absolutely barebones; basic punches and a jump kick against simple thugs with simple attack patterns. Nothing of value changes for the entire stage, and yet you're expected to endure dreadful repetition the whole way, concluding with a Pit Fighter boss battle that... takes place on a single plane? It's the worst stage in the game. Another stage has a gimmick where the controls reverse at intervals, but the only real "challenge" you face are CGI opponents with basic Point A to Point B movement patterns. What's even more ridiculous is that, once you reach a lava area that requires platform jumping, the reverse controls vanish... and you're just left with an unnecessarily-generic platform segment.

Pixel Ripped 1989 may be shorter and more experimental when compared to its successor, but it also showed a lot of potential for the ideas it pushed. Combining oldschool gameplay with "newer" tech and ideas made for a unique experience, creating this sense of urgency when teetering between "game" world and "real" world mechanics. On the opposite end, Pixel Ripped 1995 feels like another Nostalgia Trip game, except it's in VR and poorly-executed. Here's a final example of the stark difference between the two titles: each game has a dragon boss fight. One takes place on a flat, plane angle, has a dragon that fires projectiles in very obvious directions, and requires little skill. The other fight also takes place on a single plane, but it's brimming with detail, has a dragon with multiple phases, projectiles coming from various close angles, and requires a decent grasp of dodging and platforming skills.

You already know which one belongs to which game.


pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (May 22, 2020)

Jobe's favorite game.

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